Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Working Less, Earning More

This newest edition to the Complete Idiot's Guide family is perfect for those who want to start their own business, people who work from home or anyone who wants to get the most out of their work. Filled with helpful tips, author Jeff Cohen lays out what you need to do to keep your life from being consumed by work.

Cohen's advice starts with creating a weekly to-do list including everything you do in a week, such as sleeping, working, going to the gym, etc., and recording how many hours you use to complete each task. Looking at what you do per week and how many hours it takes can help you realign and maximize your schedule.

Something helpful, especially from people who own their own bosses or work from home, is Cohen's section on self-motivation. He explains how certain distractions, such as the Internet and the phone, can interrupt your productivity. If you write out a daily to do list and allot a little bit of time for these things, and then completely shut down your Internet so it isn't a distraction, you'll get a lot more work done!

He also acknowledges why some people stay with their jobs even if they are unhappy in them. Cohen shows the reader how they can concur fears standing in the way, such as worrying about not being able to support your family and not making any more than their current salary.

Cohen covers everything, from how to become indispensable in your current work situation before looking for a new one to how to freelance and network. The book is filled with quizzes and exercises that help the readers see how they feel about their work-life balance. The links in the appendix are also especially helpful, especially to freelance writers! This book is paramount for anyone seeking happiness in their overall work life, and more time for their personal life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Review: The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Wedding Etiquette

When I decided to start reviewing books, one of my coworkers (hi again, Tammy!) suggested I hit up the people at The Pocket Idiot's Guide to. The nice people there let me pick from an assortment of their newest books, and I settled on the Wedding Etiquette one.

Although I was never that girl who fantasized about her wedding, I have had a lot of questions lately about the "rules" of planning a wedding. Maybe it's all those wedding shows Gilmore, Ter and I watch, or maybe it's because I know I'll be going to a couple of my friends' weddings next year. I mean, I was already one of the best bridesmaids ever about two years ago (see pic). So I should know some stuff about weddings, right???

I did already know some of the things in the book, but a lot of my questions were answered. A chapter that was very informative (especially for any brides to be!) was the first one, which covered who traditionally pays for what... a tricky subject at times! For example, I didn't know the bride pays for the blood test for the marriage license (I didn't even know you had to get a blood test) and lodging for the bride's out-of-town attendants.

I learned a lot of random facts about the bridal party: for instance, it's appropriate for the father of the groom to be the best man, but not for the mother of the bride to be the matron of honor. Also, according to the book, bridesmaids and groomsmen should be asked to be in the wedding within the first few weeks after you get engaged. In the past, it was discouraged to have an uneven number of attendants, but now it is more accepted.

The book pretty much covers anything you've ever had questions about: food, place, flowers, pictures, music, dresses, invitations, presents, etc. There's also a chapter on pre-wedding events, such as the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties. Another helpful chapter talks about cultural differences at weddings, same-sex ceremonies and military weddings. Topics that I thought would be especially helpful for those planning a wedding include how to figure out a guest list and who to tip and how much they should get.

This book is helpful and a quick read for anyone planning or participating in a wedding. The information you want is easy to find, and the fun facts inside make it entertaining. For more information about the book, click here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Review: Love Is a Mix Tape

I love music. Who doesn't, right? I like to think I'm openminded and have a vast array of musical tastes. What I like may not be "good" to some people (looking at you, music snobs!), but hey, I like what I like.

My favorite thing about music is how it can take you back to a time or place, a special memory. This happens to me all the time. For example, "I Need To Know" by Marc Anthony (I know, I am not displaying my good music tastes right off the bat with this pick) reminds me of 9th grade, inside jokes, my mom and football players (remember, Tanya?). Every time I hear "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" by Billy Joel (my all-time favorite performer), I remember being 5 and listening to it on a record player (!!) in the Gurleys' basement. Adam, Ryan and I would play with the speed on the record player to make Mr. William Joel sound like a chipmunk. Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" brings me right back to my 21st birthday, jamming out and dancing in Ter's car on the way to Applebee's. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (Steve Perry!!!) gives me a montage of bar memories.

The best way to bring back memories is a mix CD. Mix CDs chronicled pretty much every year of my life from freshman year of high school until today. I can pick up my "Spring 2006" mix CD and remember how I was feeling second semester of my junior year of college.

But long before the mix CD was the mix tape. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield pays homage to the gloriousness of this invention in his book Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

Sheffield's book uses mix tape playlists to recreate time periods in his life, and mostly to tell the story of his time with his now deceased wife. Each chapter starts with the songs on the mix tape, which he references throughout the chapter. Filled with late '80s and early '90s pop culture references, this book is a pop culture lover's friend.
But even if you're not down with tunes from the times, you will like this book for Sheffield's writing alone. It's humorous and heartwrenching all at the same time. I laughed at the tales of his unconventional counsleors during his time at Catholic summer camp. My heart broke as he described the dismal days after his wife's passing. I was intrigued by his thoughts on Kurt Cobain's death and how it changed a culture, and entertained by his notion that he pictured himself and all girls he dated as part of a boy-girl synth-pop duo. But most of all, I loved how he describes his late wife Renee. He brings her fun, quirky spirit to life. He does such a good job describing her that I feel like I know her; she's someone who I'm sure everyone reading this book wishes they had a chance to know.

This is beautiful, well-written autobiography from a talented entertainment writer. I finished the book inspired and thinking about all the ways music has influenced me and has been interwoven into my life. I highly suggest picking this one up!
Love is a Mix Tape is a Crown Publishing book.